Want to impress your guests? Then make this South American dish consisting of fish on a savory bed of plantain and sofrito, baked in banana leaves.
- 3 or 4 – 6oz. filets of cod (bacalao), grouper or any other firm, white fish
- 2 large fresh banana leaves, cleaned with a sponge
- 3-5 very green plantains
- 1 yellow onion
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper
- 2 medium sized tomatoes
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 3 leaves culantro
- 2 tbsp achiote seeds
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup smooth creamy peanut butter
- 2 pkt. Sazon Goya w/cilantro and achiote
- Fresh ground black pepper (white preferred)
Make the achiote oil. Add achiote seeds to a small pan and saute in the olive oil until the oil becomes deep red. Strain out and discard the seeds, reserving the oil.
Make the sofrito. Finely chop the yellow onion, jalapeño (to taste), tomato, garlic, culantro and cilantro, add to a medium saucepan. Add the goya and pepper. Add the achiote oil. Cook over medium – low heat until the mixture resembles cooked salsa and the onions are tender.
Grate the plantains. Finely grate the plantains on a box grater using the super-fine teeth side. The result will look like a paste. You do not want any chunks. Be careful as you can easily grate your fingers.
Make the “filling”. In a medium sized bowl, fully incorporate the grated plantain paste, any reserved achiote oil and the 3/4 of the sofrito. Mix in the peanut butter. Set aside. The mixture will be soupy.
Prep the pan. Cut the banana leaves to 14 inch lengths. Turn one stove burner to the High setting and gently heat each cleaned banana leaf over the heated burner. When the leaves start to turn a shiny color, remove them from the heat and place in a 9 x 13 cake pan that has been lined with aluminum foil. The step of heating the leaves seals them and prevents the leaves from breaking down during cooking. (NOTE: frozen leaves do not need this step) Line the pan with banana leaves and reserve enough leaves for the top.
Assemble the fish. Add 1/2 of the plantain-sofrito mixture to the bottom of the pan on top of the banana leaves. Gently lay the raw fish fillets on the plantain mixture. Top with the remainder of the sofito mixture and cover with banana leaves. Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil and seal it shut.
Bake. Place the pan in a 350 degree oven and cook for 60-90 minutes, checking at the 60 minute mark. When done, the plantain mixture will become fairly dense, almost like a tamale. Serve each person one fish fillet and its accompanying filling. Serves 3-6.